El Capitan’s Salathé Wall- The Proudest Rock Climb On Earth


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Mark Hudon

Trad climber
Hood River, OR
Sep 15, 2011 - 09:07pm PT

Believe me, I'm not being sarcastic, I think that is way cool. What a route to climb at sixteen!

Mudcat Spire
Sep 15, 2011 - 09:23pm PT
Greatest rock climb in the world. All you Nose lovers can suck it.

It's got quality, length, aesthetics, history (free and aid), artistic merit (photos and words), stylistic and ethical merit, variety of climbing and techniques required, iconic features, mandatory free, fun freeclimbing for normal folk, MFing exposure, shorter approach than the Nose (no 4th class--ha!), four-star bivy ledges, delightful belay stances, a pitch that goes down (say whaaat?), glory, sheer horror, betrayal, intrigue.

I ticked a 40th anniversary ascent and oh yeah, gonna be there for a 50th too.
Douglas Lubes

Trad climber
berkeley, Ca
Sep 18, 2011 - 07:06pm PT
Did this amazing route with Rick Hart. !st bivy was Heart ledges, listened to a party moan all night as the follower was stuck in the ear due to a big cam walking way back in the deep. 2nd Bivy was on El Cap Spire-- woke up to my 40th birthday. Best climb ever.
Patrick Oliver

Boulder climber
Fruita, Colorado
Sep 19, 2011 - 06:32am PT
I guess the words "proudest rock climb" are figurative or
poetic perhaps, and
I really don't want to argue the notion. The Salathe certainly
was something that would fit that description back when a
couple of relative young men went up alone on that first
continuous adventure, no retreat, no rescue, just friendship,
just the beauty of the Sierra..., the occasional glance
of trust. Now of course there are
the masses, and I wonder how a team decides when to attempt
the route, with so many others who wish to do the same? The
mystique is not there anymore, when so many people of such
varied ability have now demonstrated that the climb is readily
accessible. Maybe that doesn't matter. How
could any route on El Cap, though, have that "proudest"
sense that once existed? I hope people are able
to find times when they are alone up there. There must be
that occasional wonderful blessing to be alone on the
wall? When I did the Nose in '67 we had the entire wall
to ourselves. There's nothing like that. I hope today's
climbers can at least on occasion get
some feel of the excitement and profound resplendence of
that clean, white-brown, virgin stone, when knuckles bled
a little and hearts beat together, and the quiet was broken
only by one's own occasional laugh, or one's partner,
or the dull hammer of pitons...
Quieter now, I suppose, without pitons....

Just a few late-night
ramblings. Not sure if I'm even coherent....

Social climber
kennewick, wa
Sep 19, 2011 - 03:43pm PT
I will never forget my ascent of the Salathe, the culmination of years of dreams of being on the big stone. Here is how it went down for me.

My first El Cap route was NIAD. My second was SIAD in 1994. It just seemed logical that if you could climb the NIAD that the Salathe in a day was next up. Sure the topo looked a little more challenging, but only slightly. Neither my partner nor I had done any of the pitches. Starting a big wall at 700 pm is a little surreal, knowing you will be climbing all night long, but it went down beautifully. He led us up to Mammoth in a block and I led from there to the top of EC Tower. The Ear at night is probably not as scary (you can't see how far up you are!) but I do remember clipping into those anchors in the wee hours and trying to close my eyes for a few minutes of shuteye.

Topping out after 23 hours on the Salathe.

It was very emotional for me. When I got home I looked at my wife and cried. I could'nt really talk about it for a while. Not because it was scary, not because I ever felt too scared on the rock, but because I had gotten the Salathe Experience. My partner and I had planned, worked hard for it and committed ourselves to the climb.
Captain...or Skully

Where are you bound?
Sep 19, 2011 - 03:45pm PT
That's badass, Golsen.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Sep 20, 2011 - 11:52am PT
The "Salathé experience," as you put it so well golsen, is exactly what these men were after in establishing this amazing line. The quality of effort that Royal, Chuck and Tom demanded of themselves continues to yield dividends to any climbers willing to commune with the pioneer's spirit of adventure and meet El Cap with respect and love for what the Creation can provide for us.

For richer or poorer, we craft our experience in the style we choose to climb. The rewards of a challenge well met are deeply satisfying in a spiritual way. Why settle for less?

Golsen set the bar high for himself and reaped the rewards. Proud effort on the proudest of routes!
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Sep 24, 2011 - 04:09pm PT
Big proud bump!

Trad climber
Sep 24, 2011 - 04:32pm PT
I still remember those chicken heads, way high up, over the headwall pitch, near the top, back in 1971. The rocks wet today and I'm sitting here goofing off.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Sep 30, 2011 - 11:45pm PT
Several memorable accounts of repeat ascents of the Salathé Wall have shown up in the magazines over the last half century!

This early one is a personal favorite written by Bob Godfrey which appeared in the May/June 1975 issue of Climbing.

Just three weeks to go until the 50th anniversary gathering!

Boulder climber
I'm James Brown, Bi-atch!
Oct 1, 2011 - 12:04am PT
everybody had those blue rip stop nylon jackets and mummy bags back then
who made all that early crap?

anybody remember antelope back packs in lite green?

inventor of the belly strap,

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
Oct 1, 2011 - 12:04am PT
The Salathe was my first El Cap route and an unforgettable experience. TR at http://www.supertopo.com/climbing/thread.php?topic_id=616872

Thanks for posting those old TRs!

back in Tuscon Aridzona....
Oct 1, 2011 - 12:06am PT

Boulder climber
I'm James Brown, Bi-atch!
Oct 1, 2011 - 02:33am PT
we need sushi

i need shushi

sue sue suschi

remeber that by the Tubes?


i saw grossman lead double cross,

dude was snoring "this is so boring, i used to be a real climber," he says, wtf over?

scared the sh#t out of me, forgot to clip the main bolt,

which had been removed by



Social climber
flagstaff arizona
Oct 1, 2011 - 05:06am PT
For richer or poorer, we craft our experience in the style we choose to climb.

amen steve. true on so very many levels.
Patrick Oliver

Boulder climber
Fruita, Colorado
Oct 1, 2011 - 05:31am PT
Jim B.,
I guess I have to say I don't agree with your comment
about Godfrey. We don't have to argue about it or
anything, but he was a gentle soul in many ways and
suffered mightily from loneliness. He poured his energy
into his creativity and really more or less developed a
style of his own in photography. When he developed Parkinson's
it frightened him deeply. He took his life. I was called
to come to his house and take some of his books and
belongings. As I entered the front door, a book fell off
a shelf by the door. I picked up the book, and it was
a collection of poems by Robert Creeley. I opened the book
and went directly to a page with a passage underlined:
"Men kill themselves because they are afraid of dying."
That was a bit chilling. I didn't like some of the garbage
Bob wrote for Climb! He got a lot wrong, but I forgive him,
in time. It was, of course, in part through Bob's vision
that "Master of Rock," my book about Gill, was published
(Godfrey was the publisher). He was a good man. Yes
you would have benefitted
from knowing him.

Social climber
flagstaff arizona
Oct 1, 2011 - 05:54am PT
goddamn pat. right on.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Oct 2, 2011 - 12:19pm PT
"Silver soldiers stood guard behind him and the ropes run smoothly through the ranks."

What an imaginative account!

Three weeks to go until the proud gathering in celebration of the Salathé FA 50th!
Mark Hudon

Trad climber
Hood River, OR
Oct 2, 2011 - 01:14pm PT
I'm bummed that I'm going to miss the anniversary gathering, I'll be leaving the Valley two days before.

Nov 2, 2011 - 10:35pm PT
@ Gary Olsen..
Your NIAD first El Cap route was awesome for me to watch Gary! Tom and I were on our big adventure first El Cap route the Nose at the same time. Sleeping on Sickle and hearing you guys come up late at night was so cool. I have always admired your climbing ability Gary and have always had much respect for you.


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